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I wrote this earlier in the year for my mod class. Definitely worth a share. What do you think about Faulkner of Fitzgerald?
Unreliable Narrators and Limited Point of View in Faulkner and Fitzgerald
William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Winter Dreams” both use limited point of view to move their respective narratives. The difference between Faulkner and Fitzgerald’s texts is how the limited POV is used. Faulkner uses POV in As I Lay Dying to contrast and compare characters, sometimes against themselves, in the south. Fitzgerald, in contrast, uses similarly unreliable narration to skew POV in “Winter Dreams” in order to emphasize the thoughts of the lead character above the secondary ones.
The fifteen voices of As I Lay Dying, spread across fifty-nine chapters, paint a collaborative portrait of the poor southern family in rural Mississippi, and the factors they engage with on a day to day basis. If the reader requires each character’s dialogue to stay true to their perception of the character, then they will find Faulkner’s utilization of POV to be inconsistent. Stephen M. Ross in “”Voice” in Narrative Texts: The Example of As I Lay Dying” focuses, momentarily, on the dialogue spoken in the novel. Ross writes: “the novel disallows a notion of “true.” By criteria of verisimilitude the narrative discourse is inconsistent and implausible, so much so that Faulkner has been accused of botching the first-person point of view, or at the very least of turning third person into first person by arbitrarily substituting “I” for “he” or “she.”” (302). In fact, Ross notes that many of the characters in Faulkner’s novel have moments when their narrative speech could not be true to their character. A keen example is Darl’s last bit of narration: “Darl is our brother, our brother Darl. Our brother Darl in a cage in Jackson where, his grimed hands lying light in the quiet interstices, looking out he foams” (Faulkner 791). Darl now speaks about himself in the third person as a result of descending into lunacy, begging the question: What is Darl’s true character? He is Faulkner’s pawn, a conduit for detail and a tool to move the narrative.
The obvious difference between the selected Faulkner and Fitzgerald pieces comes from the breadth of the narrative scope already established. But in that surface difference a similarity exists. Faulkner uses the many, his 15 first-person(-ish) narrators, to assess the place of the family in context to society. Fitzgerald uses his failed third person narrator (as per the second person we fault) to assess gender in context to society and time. Both writers use their unreliable narrators with limited points of view to create worlds that are a macrocosm of perceived societal issues.
Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Volume D. 8th. Crawfordsville: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012. 698-794. Print.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. “Winter Dreams.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Volume D. 8th. Crawfordsville: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012. 659-675. Print.
Ross, Stephen M. “”Voice” in Narrative Texts: The Example of As I Lay Dying” PMLA, Vol. 94, No. 2 (Mar., 1979), pp. 300-310. Web. 1/31/16.
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